The Back-to-School Transition is for Parents Too
For the past three years, the process of getting my kids ready for school has proved to be quite arduous, to say the least. We spend the last few weeks of summer hunting for (and spending a small fortune on) school supplies and clothes, going to student orientations to meet the teachers and collect all kinds of paperwork and handouts, and then running around trying to find any last minute forgotten items. I tell ya, by the time the first day of school arrives, I am exhausted!
A friend of mine recently asked me if I was sad that my child was going to be starting all-day Kindergarten this year. My answer was no because I had already been through this with my oldest. Even so, it got me thinking that children are not the only ones who experience a back-to-school transition.
Over the summer our wallets might have gotten a bit of a reprieve, yet preparing for school is just like planning for any other major financial event, it requires price comparisons and careful budgeting. For the seasoned school parent, these things come as no surprise. However, the novice might be caught off guard by the impact going to school really has on the family budget.
Beyond the common budgetary items like supplies, clothes, and lunch money, parents have to make room for miscellaneous expenses. These include things like school and book fees, class activity fees, extra/after school activity fees and equipment, fundraisers, and school pictures. Fortunately, these miscellaneous expenses are not all required the first week of school.
Rise and Shine Routine
Kids are not the only ones that must start easing back into the school routine before school starts. Over the summer, as a stay-at-home mom, I didn’t have to worry about being woken by an alarm before the sun. Nor did I have to get myself and three children ready to go every morning by 7 o’clock. Trust me when I say that my kids are not the only ones wishing for a few more minutes of sleep!
In addition to the earlier rise and shine time, the kids and I go through the process of getting dressed, brushing teeth, and eating breakfast upon waking up. This kind of preparation is good for children who went to daycare or summer camp over the summer, too. After all, getting ready for a summer day is different than getting ready for a school day, for both the parents and the children.
Getting your kids up and off to school takes enough work, but the transition doesn’t end there. Both students and parents must mentally prepare for school. Being actively involved in your child’s education helps them to succeed in school. For parents, this means retrieving those educational thought processes we swore we’d never need again and therefore tried so hard to forget upon graduation. This comes in very handy when you are helping your child with homework, or checking school work.
Making sure kids get to and from school, as well as any after school activities, is yet another item on the parental transition list. There are some districts that have begun limiting available transportation to and from school this year, thus making it a new consideration for several parents. So, whether it’s putting your child on the bus, car pooling, dropping them off at daycare, or waiting in the car rider line, once school starts, parents must either become the local shuttle service or make necessary arrangements.
Teachers and Administration
Just like the students, parents need to get to know their child’s new teacher. It definitely helps to meet your child’s teacher at orientation. This way you not only get a feel for the kind of person they are, but you can also learn the expectations for the year, how the teacher runs their classroom, and open the lines of communication. This is also an opportunity for you to discuss any specific or pertinent information regarding your child and their child’s learning style, and your family (e.g. religious beliefs, recent or upcoming major life events that might affect the child).
Sending your child to school can be an emotional time for a parent, especially where their safety is concerned. Parents and their children should establish safety procedures for “stranger danger” when walking to and from school, being picked up from school, waiting at the bus stop, and being home alone. Whether it’s a new concept or just one that was not required over the summer, reinforcing safety procedures is essential when getting back into the school routine.
The annual back-to-school media hype is primarily focused on students. Yet it is clear that it requires parents doing their part and going through their own transitions to ensure kids have a great and smooth start to the brand new school year.